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Thread: The High Line: elevated railroad in Chelsea

  1. #1

    Default The High Line: elevated railroad in Chelsea

    Built in the 1930s as an elevated passageway for freight trains, the High Line runs for 1.45 miles, from 34th Street, along the edge of the Hudson River, through West Chelsea's tree-lined blocks and art galleries, into the heart of the Meat Packing District. Friends of the High Line believes this neglected landmark offers New Yorkers the opportunity to create a one-of-a-kind recreational amenity: a grand, public promenade that can be enjoyed by all residents and visitors in New York City. Preservation and reuse will protect the High Line's potential for future transportation use and link the residential, cultural, commercial, and industrial components of these dynamic Manhattan neighborhoods.


    The quote above and the map are from the Friends of the Highline website





    The High Line at 15th Street and 10th Avenue





    The High Line and the Jacob Javits convention center





    The High Line at 17th Street





    The High Line over Tenth Avenue at 16th Street


  2. #2

    Default The High Line: elevated railroad in Chelsea

    Track Park Plan Derailed
    Rudy signed pact to abandon old West Side rail line

    By FRANK LOMBARDI
    Daily News City Hall Bureau

    A few days before Mayor Rudy Giuliani left office, his administration dealt a possible death blow to the High Line — the ghostly elevated freight line on the West Side.

    On Dec. 20, the city quietly executed an agreement for voluntary abandonment of the unused old railroad line that runs from 12th to 34th Sts., west of 10th Ave.

    In effect, the city consented to the demolition of the 1.4-mile line, which opened in 1933 to serve meat and grocery wholesalers that once dominated the area. It was closed down in 1980, and has been a source of debate ever since.

    An alliance of elected officials and preservationists have been fighting to preserve the High Line, aiming to turn it into a showcase-elevated promenade and park. The project would be funded with federal rail-banking funds, they say.

    Patterned After Paris

    Their inspiration is a similar eyesore rail line in Paris that since 1988 was transformed into the Promenade Plantee and helped spur other development along its route.

    Called Friends of the High Line, its champions decried the Giuliani administration's action but refuse to give up.

    "We thought it was appalling," said Robert Hammond, co-founder of the group. "What's all the hurry to sign a demolition order?"

    Hammond and his allies are pursuing legal and political action to thwart demolition and the surrender of the valuable right of way to adjoining property owners.

    On the political front, they hope Mayor Bloomberg and the new speaker of the City Council, Gifford Miller, will follow through on support they voiced last year.

    Bloomberg's deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding, Daniel Doctoroff, is to meet tomorrow with officials of the city's Economic Development Corp., which signed the demolition agreement.

    Aide Seeks Out Both Sides

    Doctoroff will then meet separately with Friends of the High Line.

    Doctoroff will conduct a thorough analysis and make a recommendation to the mayor, said deputy press secretary Jennifer Falk.

    Miller (D-upper East Side) said he still strongly supports the preservation effort.

    "I love the High Line," Miller said.

    Hammond is also optimistic that a Manhattan judge will rule favorably on a suit brought by Friends of the High Line, contending demolition must go through the city's intricate land-use process.

    Property owners who stand to gain from the High Line's demolition are represented by Randy Mastro, who resigned as Giuliani's top deputy mayor in 1998.

    He blasted the High Line yesterday as "a public menace and danger to anyone who has to travel underneath it."


    Original Publication Date: 1/24/02



    The view of the High Line from Chelsea gallery window on 19 January 2002.


  3. #3

    Default The High Line: elevated railroad in Chelsea

    If the High Line is demolished, can housing (and other things) be developed in its place? I mean, what will happen with all the land underneath which will be opened up?

    (Edited by redbrick at 6:06 pm on Jan. 27, 2002)

  4. #4

    Default The High Line: elevated railroad in Chelsea

    Fight Heats Up Again Over Grassy Bed of Rails

    By KELLY CROW (NEW YORK TIMES)

    There has long been a hobo serenity to the High Line, an elevated rail bed with grassy patches and rusting tracks that snakes above 10th Avenue between 34th and Gansevoort Streets. Built in the 1930's to carry freight and unused since 1980, the High Line and its peaceful views reveal little of the decade-long fight over its fate.

    The latest battle started last month when Justice David B. Saxe of State Supreme Court lifted an order that had prevented the city and a group of Chelsea property owners from tearing down the structure, which they consider an unsafe eyesore. Others want to renovate the strip as a park.

    "This is a terrific win for us," said Michael Lefkowitz, a lawyer for Edison Properties, one of 19 businesses that own land beneath the High Line.

    Janel Patterson, a spokeswoman for the city's Economic Development Corporation, said an agreement to share the $11 million cost of dismantling the High Line was being circulated among the property owners and the rail bed's owner, CSX, of Richmond, Va. "It's about eliminating a public safety hazard," Ms. Patterson said, "but it's also about enabling the city to move forward and better develop the area."

    Half the property owners have signed the agreement, she said. The city and CSX have not done so. A CSX spokesman, Robert Sullivan, said the company would not sign until everyone else had. If all parties sign, a 120-day waiting period is then required.

    Robert Hammond, co-founder of a group called Friends of the High Line, hopes supporters have enough time to save it. A ruling is expected next month in a lawsuit the group has filed against the city, claiming the demolition plans violate the city's land-use review process. And on Feb. 6, the group is to release a study by the Design Trust for Public Space that gives ideas for raising $40 million and renovating the High Line as a park promenade. Advance galleys of the study were made available last week.

    In a foreword to the study, written before he became mayor, Mr. Bloomberg said: "Today, on the West Side of Manhattan, we have an opportunity to create a great new public promenade on top of an out-of-use elevated rail viaduct called the High Line. This would provide much-needed green space for residents and visitors, and it would attract new businesses and residents, strengthing our economy. We know it can work . . . . I look forward to working with Friends of the High Line and other interested parties to develop a feasible reuse scenario."

    Former Mayor Giuliani favored demolition.

    Last Friday, a mayoral spokeswoman said Mr. Bloomberg was still familiarizing himself with the issues. Daniel L. Doctoroff, deputy mayor for economic development, met Friday with Friends of the High Line.

    "It's disappointing to see all this last- minute political maneuvering," Mr. Hammond said. "But we've still got a good case, and we're cautiously optimistic."

  5. #5

    Default The High Line: elevated railroad in Chelsea

    January 23, 2002 – March 5, 2002
    Municipal Art Society
    457 Madison Avenue at 51st Street


    Reclaiming the High Line
    On view through March 5 at the Urban Center Galleries

    The High Line, an abandoned, historic elevated steel railway structure running along Manhattan's West Side from 34th Street to Gansevoort Street, was chosen for the endangered properties list because of its potentially imminent demolition by the city, despite the efforts of Friends of the High Line, a group working to convert the elevated railway into a landscaped public trail.

    "Reclaiming The High Line," an exhibition co-sponsored by The Design Trust for Public Space and Friends of the High Line is the outcome of a 12-month study of the High Line that explores possible re-use scenarios for the structure.

    The timing of the exhibition is critical and the stakes are high: the fate of the High Line - facing a pending demolition order - hangs in the balance as a new city administration settles in, and key appointments to executive offices are being made. However, a future for this evocative urban relic is not lost. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is an advocate for the High Line's reuse, and has contributed an introduction to a new publication, Reclaiming the High Line, upon which the exhibition is based.

  6. #6

    Default The High Line: elevated railroad in Chelsea

    Newsday
    http://www.newsday.com/news/local/ne...news-headlines

    Mayor To Save Westside Rail Line
    By Curtis L. Taylor
    December 20, 2002, 10:02 PM EST

    In a major shift from the previous administration, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has taken legal action to save the 1.45-mile abandoned High Line rail on Manhattan’s West Side, preserving the right to possibly build a unique, elevated public park, officials said.

    The city filed a certificate of interim trail use this week with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, an important early step in preserving the rail line for future development that could include residential housing and a large, yet-to-be-determined public space, according to Daniel Doctoroff, deputy major for economic development and rebuilding.

    “Our intent is to create an amenity onto the High Line and build around it residential developments while at the same time preserving the essential character of the neighborhood,” he said.

    Doctoroff characterized the court action as an important early step in a complicated process.

    “This is not a done deal,” Doctoroff said. “We still have to reach an agreement with the High Line.”

    The city’s emerging plan appears to allow the option to tear down the northern section of the rail line between 30th and 34th streets, in case a stadium needs to be built on the site for the 2012 Olympics.

    Still, the city’s aggressive position to save the abandoned rail line running from 34th Street to West 14th Street, knifing through Ninth and Tenth avenues, is a decided shift from the Giuliani administration, which had taken legal steps to demolish the site, officials said.

    Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Upper East Side), who has openly championed the project, lauded the Bloomberg administration’s actions.

    Miller said the idea was to create “an exciting public space and elevated park” for all New Yorkers to enjoy, mirroring the world-renowned in Paris. The estimated $60 million price tag would be funded through a combination of federal, city and state dollars, he said.

    Miller said there was national precedent for reclaiming unused rail lines, citing the federally funded “Rails to Trails” program. Miller said maintaining the integrity of the “right of way space” was important because the large tract of land could prove important in seeking transportation alternatives.

    Offices for the rail company, CSX, which owns the rail line were closed Friday evening and an official couldn’t be reached for comment.

    The community-based Friends for the High Line, along with Miller, have led the fight to preserve the land to build the elevated park. Miller described the abandoned rail line as offering “some of the most unique views in all of Manhattan.”

  7. #7

    Default The High Line: elevated railroad in Chelsea

    NEW YORK TIMES
    http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/22/nyregion/22RAIL.html

    On West Side, Rail Plan Is Up and Walking
    By DAVID W. DUNLAP

    A once-quixotic proposal to turn an abandoned rail line on the far West Side of Manhattan into an elevated public promenade has been formally embraced by the Bloomberg administration, almost exactly a year after the Giuliani administration moved to demolish the hulking structure.

    Now, rather than seeking to tear down the 1.45-mile railroad viaduct, known as the High Line, New York City has asked the federal Surface Transportation Board to grant a certificate of interim trail use, which would preserve the route as a distinctly urban stretch in the national rails-to-trails network.

    "We think the High Line, ultimately converted into a park, will enhance the character of the entire far West Side," Daniel L. Doctoroff, the deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding, said in an interview on Friday.

    "The High Line will remain up," he said, "and in conjunction with this we would seek to rezone portions of the areas surrounding the High Line in order to accommodate residential development. We think the High Line can be an important amenity."

    The City Council speaker, Gifford Miller, said, "It's a huge step in the right direction."

    That is not easy to envision while standing in the dark shadow of the viaduct, which has all the charm of an el. But it becomes clearer on the deck, where trees, weeds and wildflowers among rusting tracks and switches create a verdant swath through Hell's Kitchen, Chelsea and the Gansevoort Meat Market.

    As a practical matter, the CSX Corporation, which manages the High Line, is still under an order from the Surface Transportation Board to pursue demolition, an outcome sought by Chelsea Property Owners, which objects to the structure as a dismal, dangerous blight that cannot be rehabilitated feasibly, attractively or economically — especially at a time of budget deficits.

    Douglas Sarini, president of the group, which represents commercial owners along the High Line route, did not reply to requests for comment.

    Earlier this year, however, the group said in one of its fliers: "Money doesn't grow on trees. And the last time we checked, it wasn't growing in the weeds of the High Line, either."

    In fact, there is no money now to create a public space, nor even a plan to follow, although a private group called Friends of the High Line intends to sponsor a competition for ideas early next year.

    What last week's filing does do is ally the city firmly with efforts to rehabilitate the 69-year old High Line, which runs about 30 feet above sidewalk level from Gansevoort to 34th Streets on a path that primarily parallels Tenth Avenue. The line, which in some places runs through or has spurs into buildings, linked the warehousing and industrial district along the Hudson River to the rest of the nation until 1980, and has been deteriorating since then.

    "I understand that for property owners and many in the community that if you have to choose between the High Line as it currently is and no High Line, bringing it down makes sense," Mr. Miller, the Council speaker, said. "But I believe — and I think the administration has also seen — that when you consider the possibilities for a preserved and reused High Line as a public space and a signature moment in the New York landscape, that the positives are almost limitless."

    Robert Hammond, co-founder of the Friends of the High Line, said the city's action was "at the top of my Christmas list." Two years ago, his well-connected but fledgling group faced considerable skepticism when it suggested that the High Line might one day rank with the Promenade Plantée in Paris, an old railroad viaduct that has been turned into a landscaped walkway.

    A year ago, the group was in court, along with the City Council and C. Virginia Fields, the Manhattan borough president, challenging the tentative demolition agreement reached on Dec. 20, 2001, in the last days of the Giuliani administration. The High Line's backers argued that because the agreement involved property easements along the route of the viaduct, it should have been subject to the city's uniform land-use review procedure, known as Ulurp.

    In March, they won a ruling from Justice Diane S. Lebedeff of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, who wrote that the administration's "determination to forego Ulurp review was undertaken without `lawful procedure' and was an `error of law.' " The ruling is being appealed. What is also holding up demolition is that a final, signed agreement has yet to be reached. And in its filing with the Surface Transportation Board, the city expressed "serious doubt" that such an agreement could ever be attained.

    Instead, Mr. Doctoroff said, the city now hopes to reach a new agreement with CSX in the next few months, permitting "interim trail use," although he cautioned that this is a legal term; it does not mean that the viaduct would be open to strollers, skaters and bicyclists any time soon.

    "A significant investment will have to be made," Mr. Doctoroff said.

    In its filing, the city said that to establish an interim trail use, it would be willing to assume full responsibility for management of the right-of-way and any legal liability.

    Without taking a position, Laurie Izes, a consultant to CSX, who is overseeing the High Line, said the company was "interested in a responsible and expeditious solution" and would review the filing if the board granted the city's request for interim trail use.

  8. #8

    Default The High Line: elevated railroad in Chelsea

    Old railway lines are a historical part of an individual community. *Hopefully, somebody will throw some bucks behind a renovation and restoration plan, to turn this line into a trail or park. *Here in MO., the state did it by creating the Katy Trail, (probably because Jesse James loved robbing trains along it), which extends pretty much the width of the state. *It is a wonderful biking, walking getaway.

    (Edited by amigo32 at 1:41 am on Dec. 23, 2002)

  9. #9
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    Default The High Line: elevated railroad in Chelsea

    I've just bought a *book called "Walking the High Line" by Joel Sternfeld containing some very nice photos, which I think serve as an excellent advertisement for saving and restoring the High Line as an elevated park or promenade. *I hope it happens.

  10. #10

    Default The High Line: elevated railroad in Chelsea

    Does anybody here know how to get up there?

  11. #11

    Default The High Line: elevated railroad in Chelsea


  12. #12

    Default The High Line: elevated railroad in Chelsea

    Boston.com has been doing a series of stories about the future of the land below the current elevated artery when the Big Dig is done. As part of the series they profiled some redevelopment success stories in other cities, among the the Viaduc des Arts in Paris. This is also a great model for the kind of development that could take place on the High Line. You can view Boston.com's story here:

    http://www.boston.com/beyond_bigdig/...is/index.shtml



    (Edited by Kill Eye at 5:03 pm on Dec. 30, 2002)

  13. #13

    Default The High Line: elevated railroad in Chelsea

    Designing the High Line: Competition Insights

    Three jurors, the competition coordinator, and Friends of the High Line co-founders offer their thoughts about - and hopes for - one of Manhattan's most unique urban environments.

    by Claire Weisz, AIA
    April 21, 2003

    Editor’s note: The High Line is a 1 ½-mile-long elevated freight railway line that runs from West 34 Street south to the Meatpacking District on Manhattan’s far West Side. Built in the 1930’s, it has been unused since 1980 – and under constant threat of demolition. Friends of the High Line (FHL), a non-profit coalition of local residents, businesses, and civic groups established in 1999, is dedicated to not only preserving the structure, but also to transforming it into a grand public promenade.

    To that end, FHL recently launched “Designing the High Line,” an open, one-stage ideas competition for the structure’s reuse. April 25 is the early-bird registration deadline (with a $50 entry fee – after that, entries will cost $100 each). The final deadline for registration and submissions is May 23. (Click on link above for details and registration.)

    A large selection of entries, including the winners, will be exhibited in Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal July 10-26, 2003.

    The jury includes: *Julie Bargmann, D.I.R.T. Studio, Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Virginia; *Vishaan Chakrabarti, Director of Manhattan Office, New York City Department of City Planning; John Lee Compton, Co-Chair, Chelsea Preservation and Planning Committee, Manhattan Community Board No. 4; Lynne Cook, Curator, Dia Art Foundation; *Steven Holl, AIA, Architect; Murray Moss, Owner, Moss; Marilyn Jordan Taylor, FAIA, Chairman, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Signe Nielsen, FASLA, Landscape Architect and Urban Designer; Bernard Tschumi, AIA, Architect, Dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation; and *Robert Hammond, Co-Founder, Friends of the High Line. *Reed Kroloff, former Editor-in-Chief of Architecture magazine, is the competition advisor. (* = Interviewed)

    The interviews that follow were conducted by Claire Weisz, AIA, Principal of Weisz + Yoes, and Co-Executive Director of the Design Trust for Public Space.


    Reed Kroloff, Designing the High Line Competition Advisor

    Claire Weisz: What do you think is important about the High Line?

    Reed Kroloff: What I think is important about the High line is its height. You have this remnant at an unnatural height, a fantastic otherworldly space. You can wander through New York at a magical mid-level. It is really an unparalleled opportunity. The question is what can you do with this to let people take advantage of it?

    CW: What kind of urbanism is the High Line?

    RK: The High Line is distinct because it cuts right through the grid. Only the subways here do that. It allows you to really experience the grid unlike anywhere else. Your urban perception is shifted – a split-space urbanism – with the ability to move through buildings, too.

    CW: Why a design competition?

    RK: Right now, it’s not accessible and not clean. There is the opportunity to create architecture in the city in a way it can’t be created anywhere else. A competition should show us many ideas about what is possible before plans are set.

    CW: Is it Architecture or Landscape?

    RK: It is Architecture because it is a bridge structure, but it has become Landscape through neglect. Now, there is a sense of not just preserving but enhancing the condition of this structure and the place it has become – without turning it into a “Disney experience.” It has to be celebrated for what makes it distinct. It reminds me of the drawings David McCauley does of cities transforming into other things. This competition about a neglected structure is a wonderful vindication of the preservation program in New York. It is remarkable that when it was threatened, a group of citizens rose up and said “No!” People want to keep a piece of the city – what it was in early incarnations. And now we have the competition to show us how to use it in the 21st century.

    Steven Holl, Architect – Juror

    Claire Weisz: What do you think about when you look at the High Line now?

    Steven Holl: I believe that its real potential lies in what I’d call a public-private hybrid: eventually realizing a variety of enterprises and functions that install themselves along its length. An example is how the High Line works in the project that Jean Nouvel proposed in the Meatpacking District last year. It demonstrates the possibilities that can exist at the upper level when an architect is interested in doing interesting things. This would give the High Line energy beyond that of being purely a public project. If you could engage adjacent interests in being responsible for pieces of it, for maintaining it, for having events and activities up there, then this kind of thinking will really make the High Line vital. I see this upper passage getting its richness from a crazy quilt of different uses and places.

    For example, imagine just walking along, and parts of it are wild. At another section, they are using it as part of a building. They’ve repaved and formed it into a place where you can have a fashion show one day or stop to have lunch – and it glows with lighting from underneath. And then walk another block, and it goes back to being wild. There must be some ways that you can – say for 10 hours a month – use it for special events. Look at Bryant Park – why does it work there? Bryant Park is a great example of a park and that’s fine – but it’s a great place because it has the other things going on.

    What we can’t neglect is the underside of it. It can really be quite nice. Like what was done at the car wash on 14th Street. You can use lighting and glass, and it can be really something useful. But as I see it, it needs to have both the public and private sectors working on it together.

    Vishaan Chakrabarti, Department of City Planning, NYC - Juror

    Claire Weisz: What are some of the issues that City Planning would like to see the competition address?

    Vishaan Chakrabarti: I think that the most radical concept is that this could be a successful public space that’s elevated in section. There are so few examples that work. How do you get people wanting to go up there? What is the programming? Wonderful possibilities exist that relate to what is below the High Line and what is happening on the side streets. We hope that the entries will deal with these issues.

    CW: What do people need to know about the neighborhoods that the High Line bisects?

    VC: In addition to lower Manhattan, one of the largest planning projects the city will ever undertake is the Hudson Yards, which stretches over the area just north of the High Line. One of our objectives is the creation of a vast open space network, in which the High Line plays a big role. You could walk from the Meatpacking District to Clinton on one continuous public open space. The High Line can serve as a great connector into the core of Hudson Yards – the knuckle of the plan – where all the districts come together in a public square. It is really like the Bryant Park of the far West Side. The High Line charges right into that. If you continue on the High Line to the west, you will be out on the water. To the east, the network connects the High Line to Penn Station.

    CW: Are you saying that you are formally planning for that core New York activity: walking?

    VC: Yes. And the High Line is an incredible walkable connector. But there are other planning issues involved. We certainly envision the ongoing uses of the arts district in the mid-blocks of far West Chelsea, and along the avenues we see a potential for residential uses. The High Line is surrounded by buildings that make sense in terms of their use and form – we are very excited about the possibilities.

    What I’m really hoping is that the competition will focus on the High Line itself: its structure, its conditions, and getting up to it. It is trite to say, “This is a linear park.” What does that mean? You can imagine the surface being a hundred different things, and the program as well, from jogging to retail. You look at it and wonder: should it speak to a more rugged experience of wildflowers or a more refined, elegant, planted park? We are only at the tip of the iceberg of understanding what “linear park” might mean here: a public space of this length in this place.

    Julie Bargmann, Landscape Architect - Juror

    Claire Weisz: What is the main landscape challenge that the High Line presents?

    Julie Bargmann: The challenge is to defend the value of this amazing landscape infrastructure in every sense, including ecologically. I was among all the folks who barely knew what the High Line was. Then I saw it when I went to an initial site visit at Penn Yards, and it was it epiphany. It has to be saved. As a landscape architect, never in a million years could I design anything as thrilling or beautiful. Then I met Robert Hammond and was introduced to all the political problems facing its survival. That fueled the fire for me to go to the mat for it. So basically, the hope I have for the role of the High Line in relation to the Penn Yards site and beyond is to have a connector both physically and historically, and to hold a piece of the public realm within something that the community perceived as a private development, and build it as a public amenity.

    CW: What issues are you hoping the competition will address?

    JB: As the guidelines express, what are the connections to and away from the High Line? How can it weave together other landscape initiatives in the city such as Hudson River Park and important streets and avenues? And, of course, I’m very interested in the exploration of urban ecology and how this 1.5-mile ecological corridor gives us something to experiment with. It should be something that looks at the particular and peculiar, as opposed to "shrubbing it up.” Here, even the native plant discussion has an urban twist. There is no real definition of the NYC "native landscape.” I'll look at a plant palette that may show pre-settlement plant communities, but what does that have to do with the New York plant community? The other thing is recognizing the High Line as 1.5 miles of open space with no intersection with motorized traffic: people should see this in the same light as Central Park, which is also a piece of landscape infrastructure. I would hope that not only will there be cultural idiosyncrasies but ecological and environmental idiosyncrasies as well.

    CW: What about change?

    JB: Landscape on this platform in an urban setting is a special and exaggerated microclimate. How do you deal with an extreme landscape that goes through so many different circumstances? You are talking about daily changes, not only seasonal changes.

    We are more conscious of changes over time – the decade clock, the geological clock. Especially when you look at it in terms of the average life of a tree, which in New York is seven years, while elsewhere trees survive 50 or 100 years. There is a lot more consciousness of how succession works: how weedy this landscape is in its in early succession, how that landscape will evolve, and perhaps even need to be reset or disturbed. If you imagine and build the right landscape infrastructure, the city will grow the right way around it.

    I think a lot about the urban wilds, though maybe the general public is not ready for this. Abandoned and vacant lots really do have a peculiar life and quality of their own. When Penn Yards came up, I thought, how can retain some of this wildness? That’s where the fight is very hard, but I think that's catching on. Ecologists are beginning to appreciate urban ecology in terms of its value as a landscape experience. Central Park isn’t the only paradigm, but it is important to think that this generation can understand landscape infrastructure on this scale with different concerns. There are urban and wild qualities to the High Line. How do you capture that and not over-tame or cultivate it?

    Joshua David and Robert Hammond (Juror)
    Co-Founders, Friends of the High Line

    Claire Weisz: Why did FHL need to do this competition?

    Joshua David: The High Line is a completely unique entity that has no direct precedents – except perhaps the Promenade Plantée [a reclaimed elevated rail viaduct in Paris] – and we wanted to make sure that every possible design idea was put on the table before we moved to the next step.

    Robert Hammond: There is not just one discipline that covers all the aspects of the project. It includes landscape, gardens, lighting, architecture – everything. We wanted to create a way for talented people to team up – a lighting designer and an architect, a horticulturist and a landscape architect, an artist and city planner, or any other combination of disciplines. And a good design will help get the High Line built. It will help FHL overcome the legal, political, and financial hurdles that lay before us.

    CW: What is the role of the architecture and design community?

    RH: When we started this project, most people thought we were crazy and that it would never move forward. Architects and designers recognized the vision early on and gave us the critical backing we needed to gain broader support. I think they will play an even more important role now. By developing visionary ideas, they will help us build political and financial support for the project. FHL has spent a huge amount of time and energy on this project. It is not enough to build just an average park. We want the space to be as amazing as the structure itself.

    CW: What would you, personally, like to see up there?

    RH: My love of the High Line comes from its contractions – the juxtaposition of seemingly incongruous elements – a pastoral meadow atop an industrial infrastructure. I hope to see designs that reflect these kinds of contradictions. I love the metaphor of a bubbling brook that runs through the heart of the Meatpacking and West Chelsea art districts. I am interested in preserving an essence of what happens when people leave and the wildness takes over – and at the same time gives people access to this wild environment.

    CW: What is the toughest challenge?

    JD: A really important challenge is dealing with access. The High Line’s value can only be realized when the public can get up on it. Access is what will connect the two worlds created by the structure: the great spaces on top and below. How do you create access systems that are ADA-compliant and can land on a narrow sidewalk? How do you build public access through buildings next to the High Line? This is a good time to point out that currently, unfortunately, there is no public access to the Line’s upper deck. It is owned by the CSX Corporation, and it’s private property. Some people have been sneaking up lately. This is a bad idea. FHL discourages it in the strongest terms. It is illegal – you will be arrested. And it hurts our efforts to negotiate with the railroad to open it to the public.

    RH: Some people view the spaces below the line, as it crosses over the street, as a negative condition, but a good design could completely change this perception.

    CW: How should entrants treat adjacent buildings?

    RH: The competition is focused on the High Line more than adjacent buildings. We hope entrants will submit proposals that concentrate on the elevated structure itself – the way access might be developed and programming for the Line, rather than focusing on the design of buildings around the Line – though we are interested in seeing how access might be built into adjacent buildings. But for the most part, it’s not about a lot of new buildings. It’s really about creating a new public space that works. The community regularly voices its concerns about significantly increasing density in the area, or creating building forms that are excessively tall or bulky. None of our studies show that increased density in the area was required to make reusing the High Line viable. People in the area want to preserve the essential neighborhood character, and the High Line is an important piece of the character.

    CW: What about transportation uses?

    JD: We see pedestrian transportation use as the most feasible and the most desirable. It is essential that we never forget that the High Line, at base, is a piece of transportation infrastructure. The great thing about rail-banking is that it allows us to use the structure for pedestrian transportation now, while at the same time allowing for other forms of transportation in the future if that ever becomes desirable or necessary.

    CW: What kind of resources do you have available for competitors?

    RH: Everything is on the website http://www.thehighline.org/competition: the guidelines, research and resources, images, a list of existing flora, registration, AutoCad drawings, and other relevant materials. Remember to register by April 25 to avoid a late fee.

    CW: What are you planning for the Exhibition?

    RH: We are planning to exhibit as many entries as possible in Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall, July 10-26. Grand Central has great historic and symbolic connections to the High Line, and half a million pass through it everyday. There will be a panel discussion with the jury once the exhibit is mounted. There will be lots of press attention, since this will be the first time we are showing design concepts for reuse.

    CW: What are the requirements?

    JD: The requirements are really simple. Submit two boards – no models, no videotapes – that address the competition objectives: Define a comprehensive vision for the High Line as a whole; identify innovative ways to deal with access; present ideas for the spaces below the Line; and create a compelling public environment on the structure’s elevated rail bed.

    Claire Weisz, AIA, is a New York based architect and principal in the firm of Weisz + Yoes. She is also the Executive Director of The Design Trust for Public Space. Originally from Canada, she has practiced in California and taught urban design and architecture at Columbia University and The Pratt Institute.


    © 2003 ArchNewsNow.com
    Last edited by Kris; November 1st, 2006 at 03:02 PM.

  14. #14

    Default The High Line: elevated railroad in Chelsea

    cool, this is good urban planning. Hopefully all the buildings it goes through will have entrances on to it.

  15. #15

    Default The High Line: elevated railroad in Chelsea


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